Lecture

23 November 2007

Islam in the West: Impossible Religion or Clashing Culture?

“How many generations does it actually take to become a true citizen?”

Egyptian-Swiss thinker, public intellectual, and academic Tariq Ramadan argues that in addition to the significant contribution of Islam to the foundations of Europe (and the West) in the Middle Ages, it is time to recognize that the presence of at least three generations of Muslims in the West since the Second World War represents enriching possibilities rather than a threat to society. Ramadan seeks ways of reconciling Islam with western liberalism, which he believes is possible to do without touching upon the heart of secular society. What this would involve on the part of the Muslim community is learning to live with multiple identities—to be, for example, simultaneously Dutch by nationality, Muslim by religion, and European by culture. Also, he argues, it requires of Muslims to abandon the psychology of the victim, to engage in true, critical loyalty to the country of their residence, and move from “integration” to “participation” and “contribution.” It is equally important that the West, in turn, acknowledge its own problems, its own social and political crises, but most of all the dangers of the normalization of far-right discourse and the suspicion it casts on immigrants and perceived “outsiders.” This recognition could help to clear out the mental space necessary for the growth of mutual trust, so that “the new we” could engage with common concerns, enabling society to move towards another, shared future.

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